April 22, 2024. Louisville, KY. – The hometown Belle of Louisville is ready to defend her title against  upriver rival, the Belle of Cincinnati, during the Shepherd Insurance Great Steamboat Race on Wednesday, May 1st. Details for this year’s race were announced on board the Belle of Louisville this morning. The two boats will compete for bragging rights and the coveted Silver Antlers in the long-running Festival favorite.

“One of our favorite traditions during Derby week, the Shepherd Insurance Great Steamboat Race, always draws a crowd on the boats and to the banks of the Ohio River,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO. “Be it strategy or shenanigans, we wish the best of luck to both boats and may the best boat win!”

The 14-mile course on the Ohio River starts and finishes at the Clark Memorial Bridge. Each boat will be assigned two judges, in addition to an overall event judge from the Derby Festival. The majority decision of the judges will be final. The winner will be presented with the set of 12-point Silver Antlers at the post-race ceremony.

Shepherd Insurance returns as the Title Sponsor. “We’re thrilled to be back… the beloved tradition that this event puts on reflects the spirit and competition that the Kentucky Derby Festival is known for, and we’re honored to be a part of that,” said Maryashly Sebastian, Marketing Communication Manager for Shepherd Insurance.

A tasting was held this morning to pick the Official Cocktail of the Belle of Louisville for this year’s race. After a tasting of three specialty bourbon cocktails made with Brough Brothers Bourbon,  the Official Bourbon of the Shepherd Insurance Great Steamboat Race, a panel of judges voted on their favorite. The winning cocktail – The Bourbon Paddlewheel –will be served on the Belle during the race. It features bourbon, Cointreau, lemon juice and simple syrup, and is garnished with a lemon peel.

“Once again, Brough Brothers Distillery is back on board the Belle of Louisville,” said Victor Yarbrough, CEO of Brough Brothers Distillery. “Brough Brothers is a great mixing bourbon… we hope everyone enjoys the cocktail and we’ll see you next week on the Belle of Louisville for the Great Steamboat Race.”

The Belle of Louisville is the reigning champ, and Captain Mark Doty said at this morning’s event that “we plan on having a great race, hopefully good weather, the river’s down.” He also shared his tips for winning ahead of the race and joked about his long-time rivalry with the Belle of Cincinnati and Captain Alan Bernstein. “Hopefully Alan’s got problems with his engines.” he said.

Belle of Cincinnati Captain Alan Bernstein, known for his shenanigans, joked that he was still a sore loser about Mayor Craig Greenberg declaring the Belle of Louisville the winner of the 2023 race. “So, I’m here to say to the Mayor, please stay away and we will do just fine. The Belle of Cincinnati will win. We will take the antlers back to Cincinnati,” said Bernstein.

Boarding for the Great Steamboat Race will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., with all the boats departing the shore at 5:45 for a 6 p.m. start. The Awards Ceremony will take place immediately following on the Belle of Louisville. Tickets for the Belle of Louisville are $200 (limited availability). For Belle tickets, visit KDF.org or call (502) 584-FEST. To purchase tickets on the Belle of Cincinnati, call (800) 261-8586.

Shepherd Insurance is the Title Sponsor of this year’s race. Official Patient Care Provider: PPL Therapeutic Services, PLLC. Contributing Sponsors: 1/ST BET and Captain Morgan. Official Bourbon: Brough Brothers Distillery. Media Sponsor: Q103.1. Supporting Sponsors: Belle of Louisville and Belle of Cincinnati.

June 21 - June 21